Hacking the Briefcase

Posted on August 11, 2011

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I have an old leather briefcase which has been lurking about for a decade, unopened.  It has dual combination locks, one of those sorts where you can set the combinations yourself, but those numbers mysterious, lost long ago.

I really don’t have much use for a briefcase anymore, but I didn’t like to throw it away in case there was some document in there that I wouldn’t want to lose.  So I kept it around.

Recently, I decided I would dog-work the problem.  Keep the briefcase nearby.  Work on it whenever my fingers were free, until the nauseous mindlessness of entering 0-0-0-check, 0-0-1-check, from 000 to 999, overcame me and I put it down.  Edging those numbers up on both sides gradually.  Sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right.

Until—click—the lock on the left opened.  The number was 520.

I hadn’t progressed as far on the right hand lock, only into the 300s.  On an intuition I skipped ahead, what the heck.  520 worked on the other side too.

Click.

Drum roll, maestro.

And there is nothing at all in the briefcase.

And later on, days later on, I realize, 520, my birthday….

Oh.

There’s a suggestion here (maybe you noticed it too) that while dog-work did, indeed, solve the problem in the end, maybe just maybe I overlooked a simpler solution earlier on.

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And you know that hacker skill that some folks apparently have, of being able to guess other people’s passwords by, for instance, using facts they know about their lives?

I don’t think I have it.